September 9, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 6:53 PM

THE ONLY KIND OF "CHRISTIAN" WHO CAN SUPPORT DONALD (deviance alert):

'Someone's Gotta Tell the Freakin' Truth': Jerry Falwell's Aides Break Their Silence: More than two dozen current and former Liberty University officials describe a culture of fear and self-dealing at the largest Christian college in the world. (BRANDON AMBROSINO, September 09, 2019, Politico)

In January, the Wall Street Journal reported that in 2014 and 2015, Michael Cohen hired Gauger's side business, RedFinch LLC, to rig online polls in Donald Trump's favor while he considered a run for the presidency. Gauger's work consisted of writing a computer script to repeatedly vote for Trump in two online polls; his company would get paid $50,000 in return. Instead, Gauger told the Journal that after a meeting at Trump Tower in Manhattan, Cohen paid Gauger roughly one-fourth of that amount--between $12,000 and $13,000 in cash--and gave him a boxing glove worn by a mixed martial arts fighter.

Through his lawyer, Cohen, who is serving a three-year prison sentence for tax fraud, making false statements to Congress and violating campaign finance laws, declined a request to comment for this article.

Previously unreported about this incident is that Trey joined Gauger on the January 2015 trip to New York, and posted a photo to Instagram showing a large amount of cash spread atop a bed in a hotel room. Liberty officials who saw the since-deleted post and described its contents said it raised questions about Trey's involvement in the pro-Trump poll-rigging effort.

"The idiot posted [a picture of] money on a bed?!" one current senior Liberty official said. "Why do that if you're not involved with it?"

Liberty officials also pointed to a tweet sent out by the university's Twitter account on January 23, 2014, linking to one of the polls that the Wall Street Journal reported Gauger had rigged. The poll was conducted by CNBC and asked readers to vote for the top American business leaders.

As a nonprofit, Liberty University is legally prohibited from engaging in "political campaign activity," to use the IRS' phrase, at the risk of losing its nonprofit status.

When asked about the tweet, Falwell told me he authorized the university's marketing department to send it as way of thanking Trump for speaking at Liberty. "A representative of the Trump business organization asked for Liberty University to use Twitter to encourage followers to vote for Donald Trump in the annual CNBC poll. We often get requests from Convocation speakers to promote their books, movies, music and other projects. And we do it all the time," Falwell said. "After speaking for free at [a 2012 Liberty] Convocation and being so complimentary to our University in his remarks, I considered Donald Trump to be a friend of Liberty University and was happy to publicize the poll in hopes that Liberty followers would be willing to vote for him on the heels of his very positive recent campus appearance."

Falwell noted that at the time the tweet was sent, "Donald Trump was not a candidate for president and no one at Liberty even knew he would run for President." However, as the Wall Street Journal reported--and as several sources independently confirmed in the course of my reporting for this article--Cohen had hired Gauger, a Liberty employee, to rig the poll in Trump's favor for the purposes of garnering support ahead of his presidential bid.


"A 501(c)(3) organization trying to influence a poll so that a candidate's fortunes are promoted or demoted is not permitted," said Eve Borenstein, an attorney and tax expert known as the "Queen of the 990," a moniker used to introduce her ahead of congressional testimony she gave about the IRS Form 990 in 2012.

While 501(c)(3) organizations are permitted to "do objective analysis of [an] electoral horse race," said Ciara Torres-Spelliscy, a professor at Stetson University College of Law, "tweeting out a rigged poll if Liberty knew it was rigged probably does not fall into that safe harbor."

Liberty officials said that the arrangement is characteristic of how Falwell wields power. "This paints a picture of how Jerry operates," one former high-ranking university official said. "Gauger gets promoted, [Liberty] contracts for RedFinch for online recruitment ... and [Gauger] gets hooked up with people like Cohen to make more money via RedFinch." And in the end, Falwell gets what he really wants: "A guy that will do whatever he is told."


Michael Cohen's connection to Jerry Falwell Jr., veers into deeply personal territory.

In May 2019, Reuters reported that Cohen helped Falwell contain the fallout from some racy "personal" photos. Later that month, Falwell took to Todd Starnes' radio talk show to rebut the claims.

"This report is not accurate," Falwell said. "There are no compromising or embarrassing photos of me."

Members of Falwell's inner circle took note of the phrasing.

"If you read how Jerry is framing his response, you can see he is being very selective," one of Falwell's confidants said. Racy photos do exist, but at least some of the photos are of his wife, Becki, as the Miami Herald confirmed in June.

Longtime Liberty officials close to Falwell told me the university president has shown or texted his male confidants--including at least one employee who worked for him at Liberty--photos of his wife in provocative and sexual poses.

At Liberty, Falwell is "very, very vocal" about his "sex life," in the words of one Liberty official--a characterization multiple current and former university officials and employees interviewed for this story support.

Posted by orrinj at 6:44 PM

COME BACK W!:

The U.S. can slash health-care costs 75% with 2 fundamental changes -- and without 'Medicare for All' (SEAN MASAKI FLYNN, 9/02/19, MarketWatch)

[D]eductible security--pairs an insurance policy that has an annual deductible with a health savings account (HSA) that the policy's sponsor funds each year with an amount equal to the annual deductible.

The policy's sponsor can be either a private employer like Whole Foods (now part of Amazon. AMZN, +0.09% ), which has been doing this since 2002, or a government entity like the state of Indiana, which has been offering deductible security to its employees since 2007.

While Indiana offers its workers a variety of health-care plans, the vast majority opt for the deductible security plan, under which the state covers the premium and then gifts $2,850 into each employee's HSA every year.

Since that amount is equal to the annual deductible, participants have money to pay for out-of-pocket expenses. But the annual gifts do more than ensure that participants are financially secure; they give people skin in the game. Participants spend prudently because they know that any unspent HSA balances are theirs to keep. The result? Massively lower health-care spending without any decrement to health outcomes.

We know this because Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels ordered a study that tracked health-care spending and outcomes for state employees during the 2007-to-2009 period when deductible security was first offered. Employees choosing this plan were, for example, 67% less likely to go to high-cost emergency rooms (rather than low-cost urgent care centers.) They also spent $18 less per prescription because they were vastly more likely to opt for generic equivalents rather than brand-name medicines.

Those behavioral changes resulted in 35% lower health-care spending than when the same employees were enrolled in traditional health insurance. Even better, the study found that employees enrolled in the deductible security plan were going in for mammograms, annual check ups, and other forms or preventive medicine at the same rate as when they were enrolled in traditional insurance. Thus, these cost savings are real and not due to people delaying necessary care in order to hoard their HSA balances.

The universality and wealth transfer would make this National Health variant acceptable to Democrats too.



Posted by orrinj at 6:30 PM

QANON FEARS THE WRONG PEOPLE:

The Ahmari-French Debate Was About Theology, Not Politics: Sohrab Ahmari sees a Catholic conception of the state as conservative. But what about those of us who are Protestant? (EMMA AYERS, September 9, 2019, American Conservative)

The problem is that, in dividing conservatives into teams, Ahmari has failed to account for differences in theology.

I'm from the Appalachian and exceedingly Protestant South. Most of the people who formed me fundamentally as a person would be hard-pressed to remember Pope Francis's name, let alone be up to date on Catholic dogma. In fact, there's a real reticence on the part of many Southern Protestants to even describe Catholics as Christians--Catholics, they say, pray to Mary and believe the pope is perfect. Catholics, they'll often say too, don't even believe in Scripture. 

Of course, these beliefs are based in a reactionary religious isolationism that fears Catholicism lest it mess with the area's deeply rooted Protestant culture. Still, there's a basic idea embedded in there and it's one that's fundamental to the Protestant faith. We have an inherent distrust of man and his capability of being righteous--whether or not he calls himself Christian. It's why we don't have bishops, why we keep our churches relatively atomized, and why we don't rely on the Church Fathers to interpret our Scripture for us. 

We like the idea of the decentralized and the small. That can mean anything from a tiny steepled church on a country road to a Sunday morning worship service held in a one-bedroom flat. It also usually means keeping the federal government small enough that it can't encroach on our lives. Our faiths are colored by a ceaseless emphasis on a "personal relationship with Jesus Christ." It might deceive you at Sabbath worship, but our faith practice isn't very corporate, and there's a reason that's the case. Sure, there are the appalling monstrosities called megachurches, where the staff is grotesquely large and politics stretch far and wide. But that's still somewhat of a phenomenon, and plenty of us fail to see the Saddleback Churches of our time to be anything good. Why? Because, again, we like our structures small.

That goes for our social order, too. And to keep that order contained and manageable, our ideas have to be dispersed. That means letting our ideological enemies advocate for their ideas without fear of federal retribution for so doing.

Scripture, the only religious book to which we'll pledge our allegiance, certainly doesn't tell us to conquer our enemies. As French himself kept insisting last night, we're called by Christ to show them. We're to turn the other cheek, to advocate with love our morality and faith in a transcendent power. There isn't supposed to be a holy war, even if a government allows for too much selfish individualism or too much debauchery on the streets of New York City.

In the Protestant's eyes, there's no real fix to be found in implementing a religious state, because that would give untrustworthy man far too much power. Whether it's a pope, a bishop, or a certain New York Post editor with an ever-present look of scorn, all that power would do is corrupt them, because no man is truly incorruptible. 

So it's the Right themselves who wat to had over power to a vast pedophile ring?

Posted by orrinj at 5:25 PM

TRANSLATION--"BLACKS":


Posted by orrinj at 3:35 PM

ALWAYS BET ON THE dEEP sTATE:

ICE: Nearly 500 undocumented immigrants released from NC jails despite detainer (Nick Ochsner, September 9, 2019, WBTV) 

Nearly 500 undocumented immigrants have been released from jails across the state in the past ten months despite administrative detainers filed against them by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

WBTV obtained new data compiled by ICE outlining the figures. The data covers Fiscal Year 2019, which began in October 2018 and runs through next month.

According to the data, 489 detainers were declined by law enforcement.

Posted by orrinj at 1:17 PM

A RACE, NOT A RELIGION:

Likud MK to Arab lawmaker: The Jews are a 'special race' (Times of Israel, 9/09/19)

A Likud party lawmaker on Monday told an Arab MK that the Jewish people are a "special race" and that the latter could not "preach morals" to him because he was opposed to Jewish statehood.

The exchange between Likud MK Miki Zohar and Joint List MK Ahmad Tibi came during a Knesset Regulatory Committee meeting to debate bringing before Knesset a controversial bill that would allow representatives from political parties to film activities inside polling stations on election day.

Anti-Semitism is merely agreement with Zohar.

Posted by orrinj at 1:12 PM

FREDO JR. (profanity alert):

The Heir: Ivanka was always Trump's favorite. But Don Jr. is emerging as his natural successor. (MCKAY COPPINS,  OCTOBER 2019, The Atlantic)

With his slicked-back hair and pin-striped suits, Don had carried a certain fratty energy into adulthood that periodically got him into trouble. (In 2002, Page Six reported that he got a beer stein to the head at a New York comedy club after some patrons thought he was "reacting too enthusiastically to [Chris Rock's] ethnic humor.") He spent weekdays working at the Trump Organization, where he developed a millionaire's belief in low taxes, and weekends in the wilderness with his hunting buddies, where he gained an appreciation for gun rights. As a result, Don came to conservatism years before the rest of his family.

Yet when Don offered to help his father's campaign, many of the tasks he received had a whiff of condescension. Trump had always been embarrassed by his son's hunting, especially after photos emerged in 2012 of Don posing with the severed tail of an elephant he'd slain in Zimbabwe. But now that the candidate was wooing rural Republicans, he was happy to let Don put on that goofy orange vest and shoot at stuff for the cameras. "You can finally do something for me," Trump told Don, according to a former aide.

Don had long ago come to understand that Ivanka was his father's favorite. "Daddy's little girl!" he liked to joke. But making peace with her husband's status in the family was harder. Ever since Ivanka had married Jared, Don had been made to watch as this effete, soft-spoken interloper cozied up to his dad. "The brothers thought Jared was a yes-man," said a former Trump adviser. "Don, especially, looked at him as very suspect."

But Ivanka and Jared's real power was rooted in Trump's aspirations for the family. The couple stood as avatars for the elite respectability he'd spent his life futilely chasing. They belonged to a world that had long excluded him, dined in penthouses where he'd been derided as a nouveau riche rube. Cultivated and urbane, they embodied the high-class, patrician ideal he so desperately wanted the Trump name to evoke.

Don--the screwup, the blowhard, the hunter--didn't stand a chance.

Tensions between don and jared sharpened in the spring of 2016, as it became clear that Trump was going to fire his campaign manager. With Corey Lewandowski on the way out, Don and Jared each began vying for larger roles in the campaign, according to two Republican operatives who worked for Trump.

People close to the candidate knew he would never entrust his campaign to his son--Don's chances of taking the reins were "less than zero," a former adviser told me. But Don seemed like the last one to realize it. He hustled to prove that he was up to the task, swapping texts and emails with anyone who said they could help his dad's candidacy. It was during this period that Don set up a meeting with a Russian lawyer who claimed to have dirt on Hillary Clinton. "The Trump Tower meeting was Don's move to take over the campaign," a former aide told me. "He was trying to show his father he was competent."



Posted by orrinj at 1:00 PM

INFORMATION WANTS TO BE FREE...:

Exclusive: US extracted top spy from inside Russia in 2017 (Jim Sciutto, September 9, 2019, CNN)

In a previously undisclosed secret mission in 2017, the United States successfully extracted from Russia one of its highest-level covert sources inside the Russian government, multiple Trump administration officials with direct knowledge told CNN.

A person directly involved in the discussions said that the removal of the Russian was driven, in part, by concerns that President Donald Trump and his administration repeatedly mishandled classified intelligence and could contribute to exposing the covert source as a spy.

The decision to carry out the extraction occurred soon after a May 2017 meeting in the Oval Office in which Trump discussed highly classified intelligence with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and then-Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak. 

...not exchanged for sanctions relief.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM

AND THE CHRISTIAN COVENANT IS EVEN MORE DEMANDING...:

Nationalists Don't See What Is Special About Our Biblical Nation (Samuel Goldman, Sept. 9, 2019, NY Times)

Contrary to interpretations of the American Revolution that stress the influence of enlightenment philosophy or Roman republicanism, patriots were more likely to cite the Bible than any other source in making the case for independence. Even Benjamin Franklin, among the most heterodox leaders, proposed Moses crossing the Red Sea as the new nation's emblem and "rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God" as its motto.

But focusing on nationalist elements of the Hebrew Bible can obscure its broader teaching. The ancient Israelites are not only a model of political autonomy. They are chosen by God to model righteousness as a "light unto the nations." If Americans can be compared to the biblical Hebrews, it is as a people with a special responsibility to uphold universal principles. In a moment of nationalist fervor, conservatives should not neglect this distinctive, if paradoxical, aspect of America's heritage.

To understand the complicated relationship between the Hebrew Bible and American national identity, we have to go back to the Puritans. Fleeing what they considered tyranny, Puritan settlers adapted the Exodus narrative to justify their so-called errand into the wilderness. Some ministers went beyond analogy and proposed that New England derive a constitution directly from the Bible. The Yale sociologist Philip Gorski describes this turn to the Hebrew Bible for political inspiration as the "Mosaic moment."

New England Puritans did not consider themselves separate from the mother country. Many of their descendants, however, concluded that Americans had become one people entitled to independence. [...]

The fundamental problem is that the Bible balances a depiction of an autonomous Hebrew commonwealth with a transcendent standard of justice. "If there is a central political message for Israel throughout the Bible, it is this," writes Rabbi Meir Soloveichik. "For Israel to deserve independence, it must remember that it exists for a calling more important than independence itself." Indeed, much of the biblical narrative is devoted to Hebrews' failure to uphold their covenant.

The Declaration of Independence echoes the idea that sovereignty must serve a higher purpose. Rather than merely presenting a case against British rule of the colonies, it affirms universal truths. In an 1859 letter, Abraham Lincoln put it this way: "All honor to Jefferson -- to the man who, in the concrete pressure of a struggle for national independence by a single people, had the coolness, forecast, and capacity to introduce into a merely revolutionary document, an abstract truth, applicable to all men and all times, and so to embalm it there, that to-day, and in all coming days, it shall be a rebuke and a stumbling-block to the very harbingers of re-appearing tyranny and oppression."

Lincoln further developed that argument following his election to the presidency. During his journey to Washington to take the oath of office, he speculated that "there must have been something more than common that those men struggled for; that something even more than National Independence; that something that held out a great promise to all the people of the world to all time to come." Americans, Lincoln concluded, are an "almost chosen people" dedicated to principles of freedom and civic equality.

It is understandable that conservatives -- and others -- have become wary of this rhetoric. Too often it has served as an excuse for costly and unnecessary wars. Americans' responsibility to oppose tyranny at home is not a calling to overthrow it abroad.

At the same time, we should resist an impulse that also afflicted the biblical Hebrews. In 1 Samuel 8, the Hebrews demand to become "like all the other nations" by abandoning their special obligation to God and choosing a king who fights for only them. Like Israel in its faithless moments, America is untrue to itself when we neglect individual rights and equality among citizens of various origins, faiths and creeds in favor of cohesion and power. Nationalism that opposes what is unique in the nation is not conservative. It is a contradiction in terms.


..."Love one another, as I have loved you".

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM

UPPER VALLEY VALUES:

Where a mine supplied a nascent nation, cleanup nears end (WILSON RING, September 7, 2019, AP)

STRAFFORD, Vt. (AP) -- More than two centuries after people began exploiting the resources buried in the hills of Vermont, a river of pollution that flowed from what was once one of the most important copper mines in the United States has been tamed, and life has returned to downstream waterways.

Two decades after the planning began for the cleanup of the Elizabeth Mine and 16 years after the beginning of on-the-ground work, the work -- paid for with about $90 million from the federal Superfund program -- is winding down, and the Environmental Protection Agency is getting ready to turn the site over to the state for long-term monitoring.

The work rerouted the Copperas Brook, and buried and sealed millions of tons of waste rock so rain and groundwater wouldn't travel through the concentrated waste and leach iron, copper, cadmium, cobalt and zinc into the West Branch of the Ompompanoosuc River.

"For the longest time, going upstream, (water quality) was good to excellent, hit Copperas Brook, and I think 'nuked' was the best term," said Ed Hathaway, the EPA manager who has been working on the Elizabeth Mine project for years.

"It's clearer now," said Stuart Rogers, chairman of the town board in downstream Thetford, who lives along the river and unofficially monitored the cleanup by the changing color of the water. "So a couple years ago it was noticeable because we got kingfishers -- you don't get kingfishers along the river unless it's clean water -- and herons."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM

WE ARE ALL NEOCONOMIST NOW:

Do plastic bag taxes or bans curb waste? 400 cities and states tried it out. (Matthew Zeitlin, Aug 27, 2019, Vox)

A study of the law by Homonoff and researchers at the University of Chicago and consulting firm ideas42 found that after the new policy went into effect, "Customers were much less likely to use a disposable bag, and switched to reusable bags or no bags at all." Before the tax, about 80 percent of Chicago consumers used disposable bags and fewer than 10 percent used no bags at all. In the year after it went into effect, "the tax led to a large decrease in the proportion of consumers using a disposable bag, with roughly half of consumers switching to reusable bags while the rest opted for no bags at all."

According to Homonoff's research in both Chicago and Montgomery County, Maryland, "very small financial incentives can lead to big behavioral change," she said. The fact that small fees, 5 or 7 cents, can lead to a big reduction in disposable bag use suggests that a sizable portion of the population is perfectly happy to use a reusable bag or not use a bag at all, and need just the smallest push to get there. Homonoff said that in her surveys, people would tell her, "I have a reusable bag in my car. Now I bring it into the store and actually use it."

"As long as there is a fee component in place, that really drives people to not want to get that bag," Romer said. "You see people walking out with something pressed under the arm."

In Montgomery County, which implemented a 5-cent bag fee, the portion of customers observed by researchers at eight stores in the county who used disposable bags went from 82 percent to 40 percent, while the number of bags per trip also fell, according to Homonoff's research. Beyond any environmental effects, these policies also seem to be changing the culture around single-use plastic, which many people know is environmentally damaging but still need a slight nudge to change their behavior. Alongside the bans, there's been a surge of public awareness of the persistence of plastic waste and the folly of recycling it.

And these policies have real effects downstream -- literally. San Jose, California, implemented its Bring Your Own Bag Ordinance in 2012, which included a ban on single-use plastic and a 10-cent fee for paper, and found dramatic decreases in "bag litter" in the city's creeks and waterways. "The litter surveys demonstrated a reduction in bag litter of approximately 89 percent in the storm drain system," a city environment and transportation committee report read, "60 percent in the creeks and rivers, and 59 percent in city streets and neighborhoods, when compared to data collected from 2010 and/or 2011 (pre-ordinance) to data from 2012 (post-ordinance)."

What drove the decrease in litter wasn't just more people using more reusable bags -- although that happened -- but also a rise in using no bags. Reusable bag use jumped from about 4 percent of bags, the city said, to 62 percent, while the portion of people who used no bag doubled, and the average number of bags used per customer fell from three to fewer than one.

The Ferguson Foundation, a Washington, DC-area nonprofit group that organizes cleanup efforts in and around the Potomac River, found that after DC implemented a 5-cent fee in 2010 on single-use bags, the number of plastic bags removed by volunteers dropped by almost three-quarters.

Nothing suits a Puritan Nation better than sin taxes.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM

THERE IS NO BAD REASON TO REMOVE HIM:

Inside Democrats' 2020 Trump war room  (Alexi McCammond, 9/09/19, Axios)

The research includes roughly 7,000 lawsuits, as well an extensive document detailing every time then-candidate Trump told supporters at his 2016 campaign rallies that Mexico would pay for the wall.

A source familiar said this document will likely find its way to local reporters, groups and Democrats in battleground states as Trump diverts funds from the military to pay for his border wall.

The DNC has examples of what farmers and truckers say they feel about Trump's tariffs, the way he's "trashed American wheat," and how the GOP tax law hurt truckers.

They've combed through local news articles and monitored local cable interviews with residents in states like Iowa, Minnesota, Michigan, Arizona, Colorado, Florida and Texas to find these folks who are being hurt by Trump's policies.

And they've already filed "thousands" of Freedom of Information Act requests to get even more info on the president.

The big picture: Using Trump's specific actions and broken promises is how DNC chairman Tom Perez is advising party officials and surrogates to define him in states he won in 2016 that they think are crucial to their 2020 election efforts.

At a meeting last week with about 20 Democratic operatives and strategists, Perez said the plan is to "make it about [Trump's] performance as president, not his bigotry or awfulness," according to one source in the room. "Prosecute the case that he is bad at his job and it is hurting people in real ways."

Message to Donald's base: he's not even good at implementing racism.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM

SO MUCH WINNING!:

Iran's latest move confirms failure of Trump's 'maximum pressure' strategy (Connor Dilleen, 9/09/19, The Strategist)

Sanctions have clearly failed to stir up unrest in Iran. Protest activity has actually decreased from an average of 800 protest events per month in 2018 to fewer than 300 per month in the first half of 2019. Ironically, the drop has been attributed in part to the increasing likelihood of a military confrontation between Iran and the US, which has contributed to 'internal cohesion among a public that frequently shows a readiness to rally behind the regime against threats of military attack or challenges to Iran's territorial integrity'.

The sanctions have also failed to curb Tehran's support for regional terrorist groups and have had little impact on the ability of Tehran's proxies to operate in Syria and elsewhere. Likewise, there are indications that Hezbollah is not as reliant on Iranian funding as previously believed. And despite the clear economic impact of the sanctions, Tehran has recently increased its funding of Hamas from an estimated US$70 million per year to US$30 million per month.

In a further blow to the already questionable utility of US sanctions as a lever for change, China and Iran have recently formalised the details of Belt and Road Initiative projects that will see China invest up to US$280 billion in developing Iran's oil, gas and petrochemicals sectors, with further investment in transportation and manufacturing infrastructure. This investment will effectively provide Iran with an economic lifeline. Intriguingly, the partnership also includes provisions for up to 5,000 Chinese security personnel to be based in Iran to 'protect Chinese projects', dramatically raising the stakes of any future military strikes against Iranian facilities.

And herein lies the destructive irony of Washington's failing Iran strategy--it has effectively killed off the JCPOA (which remains the most effective available mechanism for ensuring that Tehran's nuclear activities are transparent and accountable), while simultaneously failing to force Iran to either go back to the negotiating table or cease its support for its proxies across the Middle East.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM

THANKS, UR!:

Russia's ruling party loses a third of seats in Moscow election after protests: RIA (Andrew Osborn and Andrey Kuzmin, 9/09/19, Reuters) 

Russia's ruling United Russia party, which supports President Vladimir Putin, has lost a slew of seats in the Moscow parliament, RIA news agency said on Monday, suggesting a tactical voting strategy pushed by opponents may have worked.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM

OPEN SOURCE IT ALL:

Analysis: Transparency can be downright hazardous to Texas lawmakers (ROSS RAMSEY, SEPT. 9, 2019, Texas Tribune)

Texas Sen. Royce West, as it turns out, does a lot of government business. Not that you'd know that from reading the disclosures he's required to make as a state lawmaker.

The Texas Tribune's Jay Root ferreted that information out of West's federal filings -- required because the Dallas Democrat wants to be a U.S. senator, and federal disclosure laws are more serious than the window-dressing ethics requirements here at home.

Those federal disclosures tell you a lot about West -- that he has made millions of dollars in legal fees representing governmental entities and that he jointly manages a tax consulting firm with a company owned by a top Republican donor, for instance.

But it also points out the timorous condition of the state's disclosure laws. That condition isn't new; in fact, a recent tweak to those weak requirements revealed some detail about West's government contracts.

And the holes haven't really been hidden, either. Former Gov. Rick Perry showed us some of the holes in state reporting laws when he was running for president in 2011 and had to meet more stringent standards of disclosure. Here's one you might remember: He had been double-dipping by collecting his state pension and his state salary at the same time. It was legal, but it was also a political embarrassment.

David Dewhurst showed us when he ran for U.S. Senate against Ted Cruz around the same time. State filings indicated he was worth more -- possibly a lot more -- than $30 million or $40 million. But the detailed federal filings put his net worth in the $200 million range, rich as a Romney. Had he won that election, he'd have been one of the richest members of a Congress that already has some very rich people.

State officials or candidates can hide conflicts of interest and secret assets and income much easier than people seeking or holding federal office can. West is just the newest member of that club.